In­flux of Chi­nese in­vestors angers Mada­gas­cans

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

SOAMAHAMANINA, Mada­gas­car: The mine had not yet opened, but Mada­gas­cans were al­ready seething with rage and the Chi­nese man­age­ment fi­nally quit Soamahamanina, leav­ing be­hind empty tents and cig­a­rette butts. For months, this small city in cen­tral Mada­gas­car was en­gulfed by protests tar­geted at a Chi­nese gold min­ing com­pany, Ji­ux­ing.

Ev­ery Thurs­day, city res­i­dents would take to the streets in down­town Soamahamanina to demon­strate against Ji­ux­ing, which had se­cured a 40-year gold min­ing li­cence on a 7,500-hectare (18,500-acre) piece of land.

For the pro­test­ers, the min­ing op­er­a­tion risked ru­in­ing their farms-one el­e­ment of a na­tion­wide aver­sion to the new wave of Chi­nese in­vestors on the large In­dian Ocean is­land.

Not just in Soamahamanina, but across the coun­try Mada­gas­cans have openly ex­pressed their hos­til­ity to­wards the grow­ing pres­ence of China, the coun­try’s largest trad­ing part­ner. Anti-Chi­nese sen­ti­ment is on the rise in Africa as Beijing in­creases its busi­ness pres­ence on the con­ti­nent for nat­u­ral re­sources while flood­ing the mar­kets with Made in China goods.

“Mada­gas­car be­longs to the Mada­gas­cans, not the Chi­nese or any other for­eign­ers,” Feno­hasina, a lo­cal stu­dent, told AFP. “Forty years of op­er­a­tion-that is called sell­ing the coun­try,” said Marise-Edine, a street ven­dor. Many farm­ers who were ea­ger to take ad­van­tage of the wind­fall and had agreed to sell their land to the Chi­nese miner, are now re­gret­ting it.

“Our com­pa­tri­ots are an­gry with us and ac­cuse us of sell­ing away the coun­try,” said farmer Per­line Razafi­arisoa.

But a lo­cal worker at Ji­ux­ing blames the hos­til­i­ties on pol­i­tics. “It’s peo­ple from out­side who are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple here to dis­like the Chi­nese,” said Chrysos­tome Rako­ton­drazafy, a Ji­ux­ing Mines fore­man. “There is po­lit­i­cal ma­nip­u­la­tion be­hind all this.”

Buck­ling un­der the weight of the re­lent­less protests, the Chi­nese min­ing work­ers had lit­tle choice but to pack up their bags and leave in Oc­to­ber. “As a com­pany we think we have the right to stay, but for the sake of so­cial ap­pease­ment, we chose to with­draw,” Stella An­dria­ma­monjy, the mine’s spokes­woman, said. “We hope to re­turn un­der new terms, (and) re­pair past mis­takes.”

How soon that will be, she could not say.

For the lo­cals in Soamahamanina, the re­turn of the Chi­nese would not be wel­come. “I would like to tell our lead­ers that the big pow­ers in this world are only turn­ing us against each other to de­stroy our coun­try,” warned res­i­dent Marie Ra­solo­son. With more than 800 com­pa­nies now on the is­land, China has rapidly es­tab­lished it­self as Mada­gas­car’s largest trad­ing part­ner. In a coun­try where 90 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion lives be­low the poverty line, such in­vest­ment has given an un­ex­pected boost to in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment. But, as else­where on the African con­ti­nent, the mass ar­rival of Chi­nese in­vestors has cre­ated ten­sions.

In 2011, po­lice stepped in to pre­vent ri­ots in the Chi­na­town sec­tion of the cap­i­tal An­tana­narivo af­ter an Asian trader beat up his two Mada­gas­can em­ploy­ees. Three years later, clashes over wage de­mands left six peo­ple dead at a “Chi­nese” sugar fac­tory in west­ern Moron­dava town. The Chi­nese em­bassy has warned the au­thor­i­ties in Mada­gas­car against tar­nish­ing its im­age as an in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion.

-— AFP

This file photo taken on Oc­to­ber 6, 2016 in Soamahamanina shows peo­ple protest­ing the pres­ence of the Ji­ux­ing Chi­nese min­ing com­pany near the min­ing site.

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